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Honors Tutorial College

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Smoki Musaraj

Alisa Warren | Nov 9, 2015
Dr. Smoki Musaraj, Honors Tutorial College Director of Studies for anthropology, discusses the financial crisis in Greece with her students in the Cultures of the Mediterranean seminar at Bentley Annex.
Dr. Smoki Musaraj, Honors Tutorial College Director of Studies for anthropology, discusses the financial crisis in Greece with her students in the Cultures of the Mediterranean seminar at Bentley Annex.

Being an international student for the majority of her educational career, Dr. Smoki Musaraj emphasizes promoting an appreciation and understanding for diversity in her classrooms. 

Musaraj is serving her first year as Director of Studies for the Honors Tutorial College anthropology program, with the goal of utilizing her unique perspectives to lead discussions in cultural understanding. Growing up in Albania during the late part of the Communist regime, and then the beginning of the country’s democratic transition into capitalism, she was a witness to the implications of a country’s turmoil sparked by drastic change. 

“I think retrospectively, one thing that I appreciate from that is having lived in a very different environment and different political system, so knowing that things can be different and leveraging the pros and cons of the present is a useful past to have,” Musaraj said. 

As a high school student, she took part in the International Baccalaureate program as part of the United World Colleges, which recruits students from all over the world and selects candidates through a very competitive interview process. Musaraj was selected as an Albanian student representative for the program, sending her to a new life in Canada, where she would be for several years. 

She attended an international high school in British Columbia, and then pursued a bachelor’s degree in cultural studies and political studies at Trent University in Ontario. This was the start to her growing network of friends from across the globe, which she credits to the widened perspectives she gained throughout her life as an international student. 

“I liked to learn about other cultures,” Musaraj said. “At the time, I didn’t really know what was going on, but when I think back to the interview process, they were looking for people who were open to being in a foreign country and open to being exposed to other cultures, so that’s always kind of interested me.” 

This interest still resides within her teaching methods — this time in her curiosity with the international and minority student experience. She encourages students of diverse backgrounds to share examples of their lives, adding a real-life cultural context to classroom conversations. 

With an attempt to triangulate between the topics of class and the events that occur on campus, Musaraj said she also encourages students to participate in international student activities at Ohio University, such as events, talks and films that touch on such issues. 

“I want to teach them to appreciate that it’s fun to learn about another culture, and learning about others and otherness is a good way of learning about yourself, and challenging yourself to be something that maybe you didn’t think you could be,” she said. “I find that that’s kind of shaped my own path; being an international student, you’re kind of forced to really learn and express yourself, but it’s also a really good experience to find things out about yourself that you didn’t know when you were in a comfortable environment. Pushing that in my classes is my mission.” 

Her own research interests still deal with her first home, as she is delving into the Albanian construction boom and its implications of it on the economy of the country. She traveled to Albania this summer to conduct interviews and do graphical work, and will present her current findings to the American Anthropological Association at its annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. 

“I think when you do research, you can get lost, because there’s always more information that you can collect,” Musaraj said. “But I think when you start presenting, you get to see what you should be looking at next, what kind of interesting findings you have found, so I’m excited. There’s always really good feedback that comes from other scholars as well.”

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